Mark Batterson - Radical Generosity
Hey NCC, this weekend we wrap up our "Yes and Amen" series. Wanna give you a quick walking tour of this car barn, this city block, that we are building out. A few weeks ago, showed you a picture of what it looked like about 100 years ago; and then an artist rendering of what it might look like when we're done with it. Listen this building has evolved over the years. For most of its history, it was a street car turnaround, and then it is incubated half a dozen charter schools, including KIPP DC; and here's the exciting thing, we get to write the next chapter. And so, we are in phase one. We'll have an entrance off of 7th Street. A little guest studio where those who are new to NCC can come. Actually a couple of docks where people can just meet for a small group, gathering places to hang out. Down this hallway, a couple of bathrooms including 12 stalls in the women's bathroom.
So let's do this, quick fly through. We are in our main lobby right now. We've got a couple of entrances where you can get into the back of the event venue. This'll be a place and space where we can hang out, lots of seating vignettes. And then once we build out phase three, this entire wall is going to go away, and that marketplace will come right into the event venue. The building will be this place where you can work, and eat, and play, and pray. And then when we build out phase two, this is kind of fun. Down here we've got a couple of the old historic entrances to the car barn.
And so, this is where the old streetcars came in. We've got some fun pictures of what it looked like a long time ago. This'll be a side lobby for us. Again, a spot where we can kinda hang out. And then once we're open this entrance up, we'll have a main street that will go all the way from M Street down to L Street. We'll have the event venue, then an indoor playground that our neighbors are going to love. We'll have a kids theater. It'll be a little bit larger than the Miracle Theater. We'll have classrooms, enrichment rooms.
Again, that's our kids ministry space, that is compound interest to the third and four generation, Monday to Friday. It'll be our child development center. And so, down this hallway we've got a couple of landing spots. I want to say thank you to our volunteers. They are the heroes of NCC. It's your time and talent that makes us who we are, and so we'll have a little locker room where you can hang a hat, hang a purse. And so, some spaces there. And then, let's sneak into the event venue. Now listen this was once just a little garage. But we had a vision for what it could be become. And so, about a thousand seats, and wanna give you a look inside, here we go. Alright, we are in the event venue.
Again, it once was this little garage. What we did is we blew out the walls. We knew that we had some columns here to support the structure. And so, about a thousand seats. We'll have risers on either side. And what I love about this is that we're going to be worshiping towards each other. In this main section, we'll have some sloped theater seats. And of course garage door right now, you can see the styrofoam that will actually be poured concrete over it. We'll insulate those garage doors, and before you know it we'll be worshiping in this space. And so I want to say thank you for being a part of National Community Church, being part of this vision. I want to say thank you for adding your amen, you are a shareholder in everything God does in and through NCC. The best is yet to come.
When I was a senior in college our basketball team had a road game in Kansas City, Missouri and I did something I had never done before, I bought a book. I bought a book, not assigned by a teacher. I bought a book with my own money. It was an 800 page biography of Albert Einstein, and I started reading that biography, and I never stopped. I'd read about 200 books that year, I'd keep that pace over the next 15 years. Now fast forward, July 5th, 1994, Jeff Bezos launches an online book store with the strange name, Amazon.com. This is a book lovers dream come true, are you kidding me? I can buy books without even going to a bookstore.
Listen I was one of their best customers. In fact, they once sent me a gift. They do not do this anymore. I got a mug. I still remember what it said. It said, live as if you'll die tomorrow, learn as if you'll live forever. Unreal. And so, Amazon became one of my best friends. Then in 1997, Amazon.com went public, and I thought long and hard about getting in on that IPO. But I made a decision to invest in a penny stock instead. Now, it was a gold mining company in Canada. They were about to strike gold. Yeah, right. Good thing I was not born during the Gold Rush of 1849, okay. I would have been a '49er. Long story short, a few years later that mining company bankrupt, and Amazon.com of course would become the world's largest retailer online by revenue.
Now hold that thought. In the world of finance, two kinds of cost, actual cost and opportunity cost. And we talked about this last weekend, and I wanna get us back in the same mindset. In actual cost, it's an expenditure on a balance sheet, it shows up as a liability; and this is relatively easy to account for. And opportunity cost, now that's a hidden cost. It's the loss of potential gain, often because of indecision or inaction or sometimes even a bad decision like the one that I made. Now failing to invest in Amazon did not incur any actual cost, but I decided to do a little bit of math to throw a little pity party for myself. Now it was not much money. It was not much money, but if I had invested in Amazon, IPO price of $18, it would have returned 49,000 percent and would be worth 2.5 million dollars. God bless you, we'll see you next week.
Wow, little depressing right there. But here's the deal. Most of us pretty good at calculating actual costs, opportunity cost not so much. In fact, I would say spiritually speaking, counting opportunity costs it's a morale calculation that involves a measure of faith. You can maintain the status quo, and there is no actual cost. But faithfulness is not holding the fort, you can do nothing wrong, still do nothing right. That's why at NCC we want to be more known for what we're for, than what we're against. Listen we happen to believe that the church oughta solve the city's problems for them, and that we oughta bless our city to the third and fourth generation. Here's a bottom line. If you stay in the boat, you will never walk on water. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Well welcome to National Community Church. This weekend we wrap up our series, "Yes and Amen". If you have a Bible, you can turn over to II Corinthians, Chapter Eight. And we'll get there in just a couple of moments. Three weeks ago talked about two trains, you remember them, So Far So God and The Best is Yet to Come. Remember this, God's faithfulness is pursuing us from the past. God's sovereignty is bearing down on us from the future, and then we live where these two theologies and realities meet. It's a place called the promises of God, and as the children of God... Listen those promises belong to us, II Corinthians 1:20. No matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes,' in Christ, and that's amazing. But the verse doesn't end there. It says, through Him, the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.
In other words, we have to add the amen, and we're going to do that in a very unique way this weekend. Two weeks ago, I cast a vision for our next chapter as a church, attempting to do what we've never done before. We have turned a crack house into a coffee house. We've turned an abandoned apartment building into the DC Dream Center, but we have never turned a city block, this 127 year old car barn, into a proto-type campus, into kids ministry space that will be a child development center, and into a mixed use marketplace, and a co-working space. This is a God-sized vision, and we would not have it any other way. Here's what I know for sure, God's vision for this church bigger than ours; and God wants us to be a bigger blessing to our city. Listen, we are here for such a time as this. We are here for such a place as this.
II Corinthians, Chapter Eight, Verse Seven, here we go. But since you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love that we have kindled in you, see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Now this English word excel, it comes from the Greek word perisseuo, and it means over and above, or beyond all measure. This is Ephesians 3:20, now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can can ask or imagine. This is Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, and then having more leftover then he started with. Perisseuo is five plus two equals 5,000, remainder 12. That word in Greek reminds me a little bit of this Japanese concept called Kaizen. It means continuous improvement.
Now in psychology, this would be a growth mindset. In business this would be benchmarking. And what I love about that is this you never really arrive. And I said this a couple of weeks ago, when you have a God-sized vision you never get there. Why, because you grow with the vision, and then the vision grows with you. Paul identifies five lead measures, if you will, in this passage: faith, speech, knowledge, authenticity and love. And then he adds a sixth measure to spiritual maturity and it's this idea of generosity. He says, "See that you also excel in this grace of giving".
Now please note it does not say this law of giving. This is the grace of giving. Grace is the genesis of generosity. In fact if you want a definition, generosity it's just the overflow of God's grace in our lives that we let spill over on everybody else. And so how do we excel? How do we grow in this grace of giving? Last weekend, I talked about four levels of generosity. You can jot these down in case you missed them. Level one, giving spontaneously. Level two, giving consistently. Level three, giving proportionality. And then level four, giving radically.
Now let me quickly recap level one, level two. Level one, giving spontaneously. Now this is spirit led generosity. Spirit led does not mean poorly planned. 'Kay, this involves some budgeting. You actually have to create financial margin, so that when these opportunities present themselves you can step into it with God's grace. Paul says this about the Macedonians, it says this was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. During this series, challenging those of you that call this your church home to make a pledge. You've been praying over this card for the last three weeks, and want you to add your amen to the vision that God has given us and we'll do that at the end of our services.
But can I tell you what else I'm praying. I'm praying that no one would give for the wrong reason. What's a wrong reason? I think it's any reason other than the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Please, do not give out of external pressure. That is not who we are. We are not going to change who we are. That's who we've been for 23 years, that is not how we roll. Spontaneous giving is not outside in, it's inside out. It's allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us, and if you want to put some fun back in your finances. This is so great because when you follow these promptings, you get to participate in the miracles that God is doing. Your giving is someone else's miracle.
Now level two is giving consistently. Consistency beats intensity, seven days a week and twice on Sunday. If you want to grow in any area of your life, you need some consistent habits. There's just no other way. If you want to get in shape, you need a regular routine. You gotta go to a place called the gym, or at least work out at home. And if you want to exercise your giving muscle it's the same idea. Now Laura and I have put this idea into practice, kind of the consistency piece by setting something up called automatic withdrawal.
And so, we don't even see it. It just automatically goes to NCC, and does that mean we stop giving spontaneously? Well no, we still follow those leadings. But what consistent giving does is it establishes this baseline or even a trend line of generosity. Okay, I think we're caught up with ourselves. Are you ready for level three, level four? We're going to get our game on okay? And some of these, I'm not going to be able to totally deep dive this okay? But we are going to do a May term, gonna unpack these ideas a little bit more. I'll do some teaching, we'll have a panel, do some QandA and so if you want to grow in the grace of giving certainly some more opportunities to do that.
Okay, level three is giving proportionality. Now in Verse 11, II Corinthians 8, Paul says, give in proportion to what you have. Now sometimes when you're reading the Bible, what helps is to notice what it doesn't say. It does not say give in proportion to what you don't have. But let's be honest I think a lot of us, let what we don't have dictate what we do. Do not let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can. In Luke 21, Jesus celebrates this widow who gives two small coins. In the 1st Century, smallest coin was called a lepton. It's diameter was the size of a pencil eraser and it was worth, are you ready for this? Six minutes of an average day's wage.
In other words, this woman gave the equivalent of 12 minutes of time in money. And yet, Jesus says this, I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part, a tiny proportion, a tiny percentage, of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything, that sounds like a 100 percent to me, has given a 100 percent of what she has. And so here's the deal. She gave the smallest amount, but it represented the greatest proportion. And that's who Jesus celebrates. The true measure of generosity is not determined by how much you give. The true measure of generosity is determined by how much you keep. Giving spontaneously, a great start. Giving consistently, a wonderful next step. But if you want to grow in the grace of giving, you cannot think in dollar amounts. You have to think in percentages. Now that is a parameter. I want to talk about something called the tithe.
Now some of you very familiar with that. Others of you, no idea what that is. The word tithe, it literally means 10 percent. And before I say anything else, let me say this, if you grew up in a church that was legalistic, I would be willing to bet that that word actually has some negative connotations to it, creates a little internal tension inside. Why, because legalism focuses on the law. Again, what we're talking about is the grace of giving. The tithe is not a threat. The tithe is a promise. And if it causes your blood pressure to go up, then we need a little paradigm shift right here. Actually it should probably cause a little rush of adrenaline, cause it's about to get exciting.
Okay, here we go. Alright, let me reverse engineer this idea. The tithe is as old as Abraham, and so it's pre-Sinai, it's pre-law and that's significant. Abraham has an encounter in Genesis 14 with Melquisedec. He is the priest of Salem, and this is what theologians would call a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. His name literally means, king of righteousness, and he does two things when he encounters Abraham. One, he blesses him and two he serves him bread and wine. Huh? This is foreshadowing something that we call communion. And so what is Abraham do in response to this blessing and to this communion. Well it says that he gave Melquisedec a tenth of all he owned. Huh?
Now fast forward about 1,500 years and the prophet Malachi challenges the people of Israel to give proportionality, and it comes with this incredible promise. Malachi 3:10, it says, bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I do not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. This is the only place in scripture where God explicitly tells us to test him, how? By giving him the tithe. Again tithe means 10 percent, but it's not any 10 percent. It's the first 10 percent.
Now the technical term here is first fruits. In the Old Testament, in an agricultural society, they would actually harvest 10 percent of the field go and give that tithe, and then come back and harvest the rest of it. Do you see where I'm going with this? This was an exercise in faith. This was their way of saying, God we're going to put you first, and then we're going to trust you for what they called the second harvest. Tithing is trusting. And that's how you grow in a relationship with God. And here's what you discover along the way, you cannot out give God. Now God is not a slot machine, 'kay? You cannot play God, and if you give for the wrong reasons doesn't even count. But if you give for the right reasons, listen it is game on. Here's what I know for sure, God can do more with 90 percent than we can do with 100 percent, and I promise you this, the more you give the more you will enjoy what you keep.
Now let me say this, we would not preach what we do not practice as a church. Historically. We have given about 17 percent of our general income, as a church, to Kingdom causes that are not NCC. Why? Cause we have a core conviction. God's going to bless us in proportion to how we give to missions, in proportion, and care for the poor in our city. As long as we are investing our time, and our talent, and our treasure in things that are near and dear to the heart of God, I am not worried about our bottom line as a church. Yes, we are trying to build this city block. Yes, we would love to do it debt-free. And it is stretching our faith. But can I tell you what we would never not do. We would never dial down our mission's giving. Are you kidding me? We would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
In fact we want to grow more, so we can give more. That is the heartbeat of this church. And so, we are standing corporately as a church on this same promise, that then we stand one personally. Let me say one more thing, a couple of years ago decided to run a marathon to celebrate God healing my asthma after 40 years, and here's what I did not do. I did not go out and run 26.2 miles. I did 72 training runs over six months, and then and only then was I able to finish that marathon.
I know that when I talk about 10 percent, for some of you you're already doing that. But for others, I mean this feels like wow that is a stretch. This feels like a 26.2 mile marathon. Totally get that. You are trying to get out of debt. You're trying to make ends meet. You can't imagine running a marathon. Listen I want to remind us that we have a God who celebrates two small coins. Okay, let's start there. This is a God who celebrates every step in our journey, whether it's giving spontaneously or then consistently, or even proportionality. Growing in the grace of giving, it doesn't happen overnight. It might take a minute. All I'm saying is, I think it'd be wonderful if we just kinda set our sights on that 10 percent tithe.
Alright let me talk a little bit about level four. How are we doing? Okay. Level four is giving radically. Paul juxtaposes the poverty and generosity of the Macedonians. It's almost like this oxymoron, and he says this, he says their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity and then he says, they gave as much as they were able, even beyond their ability. When Laura and I got married, we made a decision that we would never not tithe. It was a pre-decision and it was inspired by this promise of Malachi, and I'll connect the dots. We just believe that that promise is part of this package deal, that no matter how many promises God has made they are yes in Christ.
So when we give God the tithe, what we're doing is we're adding our amen to the promise that God has made. I think it's one of the best decisions we've ever made, but if I'm being honest, I think that I thought that the tithe was the end goal. That maybe that was the finish line, and I think what I've discovered is that it it might be a starting line. Let me make this personal. That penny stock that I invested in in my 20s, I want you to know I also traded options, and day traded stocks for quite some time. And I'm going to tell you why, cause I wanted to get rich quick.
Can I just be honest with you? And I bet you have been there and done that. I don't think my head and my heart was at the right place. I think I was focused more on maybe, you know, making a quick buck or even financial independence, and nothing wrong with that; then I was on giving. I'm going to tell you happened. Around that time, discovered a biography about J.C. Penney. J.C. Penney founder of the department store by his name, by the end of his life, he lived till 95. He had 1,600 department stores and they were worth about 18 billion dollars. Now you gotta love this. The C in J.C., stood for cash. Ha! He had a lot of it, but that is not what motivated him.
By the end of this life, he was reverse tithing. What I mean by that is this. He was living off of 10 percent, he was giving 90 percent, and it was a paradigm shift for me. It's like a switch flipped, and Laura and I stopped setting getting goals, started setting giving goals. In fact set a goal of reverse tithing. Now, no guarantee we would ever get there. No idea how long that would take if we did. But we set our sights on a goal, that some day, we're believing, that we'll be giving 90 percent of our income back to God. Now here's the key. Because motivation here is so critical, the Apostle Paul says, they did this out of their own free will. And I love it, sometimes these New Testament writers, they'll kinda of tip the cap to an Old Testament idea. And you hafta kinda hyperlink it, but there was actually an offering in the Old Testament, a free will offering and as the name suggests, not mandatory.
This was over and above the 10 percent tithe. And I think this is what radical generosity is all about. Listen, this is not someone who just loves to give, this is someone who lives to give. This is someone who understands that, listen I know there are people who say the tithe belongs to God, totally disagree. All belongs to God. He just lets us keep 90 percent. Okay, it's all from God, it's all for God, and I think that is the underpinning of radical generosity to whom much is given, much is required. Now here's the Catch-22. The more you have, the harder it is to sacrifice.
And that's where I want to challenge you, to do just that. And that might be a double tithe. That might be you setting your sights on this reverse tithe, and if you do this... Well let me say this, God doesn't bless us to raise our standard of living. God blesses us to raise our standard of giving, and when we do that we discover what Jesus said. It is more blessed, it is happier to give then it is to receive. I think my prayer for each of us, is that we would experience the joy on the giving side of life. And so let me hit the pause button right there, you guys are doing so good. We talked about four levels of giving, and I think the question is what level are you at?
And then more importantly, what would be the next step in your journey of generosity? For some of you that may be giving spontaneously. It might be just creating some financial margin, so that you can step into opportunities that God presents. For some of you, it might be giving consistently. It might be this recurring giving idea, and you need to just take that step. I think for some, listen, it's this idea of testing God with the tithe. That is one small step, one giant leap. And then some of you, you're ready to make the jump into hyperspace and you are ready to give above and beyond this level of the tithe, and wherever you're at, what is that next step for you? And then would you be willing to take that step this weekend?
Here's what I found in my spiritual journey, and this is where I'm going to love on you, okay? Which means I'm going to push you a little bit. Here's what I found. I think that the way we grow in any area of our lives is by making commitments. Commitments are catalysts, and that's really I think what this pledge card represents. It's a catalyst, it's a commitment. Again, no one is going to come knocking, if you're a guest, you are off the hook. But this is about each one of us discerning, God what do you want me to do? Here's what I know for sure, you will not accomplish 100 percent of the goals you do not set. And you will not keep 100 percent of the commitments you do not make. Okay? And so, if you're part of this church family would you stretch your faith? Would you make a sacrifice? Would you add your amen to this vision?
Now I wanna bring this thing in for a landing. We have a God-sized vision, it took a miracle to purchase this city block in 2014. Unbelievable. But the way you steward a miracle is you believe God for even bigger and better miracles. We need another one. I would love, would it be a miracle if we could do phase two debt free. Now it's amazing. Phase one fully funded. Why? Because of the generosity of people that have already stepped in and stepped up, so grateful. So inspired, you have given year-end bonuses, and tax refunds, and down payments that you have saved for other things. And then listen, God is providing in some amazing ways. I have lunch with a pastor a couple of weeks ago, just sharing a little bit of our vision.
Last week a check for $10,000 shows up, unreal. Now I can't wait for us to flip that blessing for another church. This week, speaking to some commercial realtors had their national conference here in DC. And they take up in offering for this vision, how great is that? So we have all of these shareholders that even from the outside God is providing, but I believe that the miracle is in the house. And so at this point, 100 percent of our giving goes towards phase two. The actual cost five million. The opportunity cost, off the chart. It's going to be the best investment we make. Thousands of kids, we're going to disciple in that space. Compound interest to the third and fourth generation.
And so, you can make a monthly pledge. It's a two year timeline. You can give a one time gift. Talked a little bit last week about how Laura and I approach this, and you know in 23 years of leading this church, this is the biggest hill that we've climbed. And Laura and I felt like that means it needs to be the largest gift we've ever given, and we're excited about that. Whether you're single, you're married... You know I think you pray about it, you think about it, you maybe talk with a spouse, or a friend or a mentor, and then at some point just boom. Like alright well, let's take a step of faith, and that's what this represents.
And so, I wanna ask our worship teams to come at all of our campuses, and then would you grab this pledge card, I want you to just put it in your hand and what we're about to do, pretty unique, never done anything like this in 23 years. We are going to say a collective amen to the vision that God has given us, and some of you God has given great capacity. Would you stretch your faith? Some of you, listen you're in a tough spot, would you step in somehow? I can't make a pledge for you. You can't make a pledge of me, but I have a feeling that if we all step into this miracle we are all going to be a part of the miracle that God wants to do.
And so, this is fun. We're going to sing II Corinthians 1. We've been singing this song, "Yes and Amen," during this series, and so we're gonna worship God with our singing, and then at the end of that song we're going to worship God with our giving. And so, maybe you came with that pledge card filled out, and you're ready to do that. Just hang on to it, you can pray over it. And maybe you need a minute to fill it out, and that's totally fine. And so, we're going to worship God with this song, and then at the end of that song, then our ushers are going to come at all of our campuses and I believe this is going to be a huge amen to the glory of God. I can't wait to share with you what the Lord does. Thank you for your regular giving. Thanks for giving over and above. Listen I know that this is not treasure. You traded time and talent for this, and so you are putting a piece of yourself into this. So I wanna pray for you:
Lord right now thank you for each person at all of our campuses. God what a joy to have a second family, a spiritual family that we call church. Lord I pray that each one of us would feel like we're a part of this vision coming to fruition, and God would you guide each one of us to know the measure of sacrifice, and the measure of faith that you want us to exercise. God I pray that no one would give for the wrong reasons, but that God you would honor and bless, and multiply, and use these gifts for your Kingdom purposes. And God we pray that the way that you taught us to pray, may your Kingdom come, may your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven in Jesus name, Amen.